By Amadee Ricketts, author of Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning
While every season has its charms, summer brings a sense of freedom that can make it the perfect time to add creative elements to your storytime routine. If you are like most adults, you don’t get much of a summer vacation. Even if you are a teacher who gets several weeks away from the classroom, odds are that you spend much of that time continuing your education, preparing for the new school year, and maybe working a summer job or two. Not having a block of time off can make it hard to recapture that wonderful “endless summer” feeling of youth, but warm weather, long days, and fun storytimes can help. Of course, those things can also help the young children in your life form their own special summer memories.
Here are some ideas to help make this summer your most fun and kid-friendly storytime season yet.
If you can take storytime outside, go for it! Reading in the garden, in the grass, or under a shady tree enriches the experience for everyone.
It is fun and easy to make connections between stories, activities, and your surroundings. The outdoors make a natural setting for stories about plants, animals, life cycles, weather, and seasons. It can also be a great jumping-off point for stories about friendship, feelings, the senses, and physical activities.
Wide-open spaces lend themselves to movement, messiness, and noise. For maximum fun, experiment with any or all of these. One simple way to incorporate movement is to mimic the movements of the things around you. Bend like a blade of grass, whoosh like the wind through a tree, wriggle like a worm, or scratch and peck like a bird looking for a meal. If you read books that highlight movement in nature (like Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres, In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming, or Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre), you can even combine the movement activity with the story itself.
Along with freedom of movement, heading outdoors can give you the space to get messy without too much worry about cleanup. Painting with watercolors and planting seeds (in the ground or in peat or newspaper pots) are a couple of hands-on activities that work well outdoors.
Last but not least, going outside is an excellent opportunity to bring out rhythm instruments or pots and pans and have an impromptu parade or drum circle. A book like Drum City by Thea Guidone or I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison will get everyone’s toes tapping and hands clapping.
Engage the Senses
Summer is hot, so why not make the most of it with cool and refreshing activities? Read about boats, then try making your own and sailing them on a water table or in shallow plastic tubs (with careful supervision, of course). Little Tug by Stephen Savage and Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera are two read-aloud favorites to inspire young sailors.
If you want to get even cooler, break out the ice cubes! It is fun to paint on ice, scoop it between containers of water, and experiment with making it melt. Does it melt faster in the sun or the shade? On a light background or a dark one? What happens if you spray it with water? Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson and Cold Little Duck, Duck, Duck by Lisa Westberg Peters are chilly read-alouds that work well with icy activities.
Aside from the sense of touch, how does summer look, sound, smell, and taste? The possibilities for sensory activities are nearly endless!
Room to Grow
One of my favorite summer storytime memories started with a child who had missed storytime at the library. That morning we had read about plants and what they need to grow and had planted sunflower seeds in peat pots. The little girl stopped in later that day with her mother, and she was sad to have missed the stories but excited to take a couple of the leftover pots and seeds home. As they got ready to go, her mom assured her that she knew just the right story to give the little seeds a good start. When I next saw the little girl a couple of weeks later, she could not stop talking about Sunflower House by Eve Bunting and how she and her mom had used the seeds from the library (along with some extras) to start their very own sunflower house in their yard. All summer long, she brought me updates on the sunflower house as it grew from a green circle of tiny plants to a tall, flowery fort that was perfect for reading and playing.
Sunflower House was originally published in 1996, and I had never heard of it before. But ever since that summer, the book is one of my favorites, and I recommend growing a sunflower house to any school, library, or family with a little space to spare. (For detailed instructions on how to grow a sunflower house, check out “Plant a Sunflower House” from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.)
Whether it is growing a sunflower house or just sharing a story under a shady tree, I hope you will create your own summer storytime memories this year and every year.
If you would like to read the picture books mentioned in this post, you will find them in most libraries.
Amadee Ricketts received her MLS degree from the College of St. Catherine and has been a librarian since 2002. She is currently the library director at the Cochise County Library District in Arizona. When not working or writing, she enjoys taking photos of insects and other tiny things. She lives with her husband, who is a photographer, and their cat.
Amadee is the author of Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning.
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